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India

Bengaluru Floods A Failure Of Smart City Mission?

The aim of the mission is to drive economic growth and improve quality of life with focus on sustainable and equitable development.

Bengaluru: Vehicles pass through the waterlogged Outer Ring Road after heavy monsoon rains, near Bellandur in Bengaluru, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022. (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak)(

New Delhi: Smart Cities Mission was launched by the Hon’ble PM on 25th June, 2015 with the objective to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and decent quality of life to its citizens through the application of “smart solutions”.

The aim of the mission is to drive economic growth and improve quality of life with focus on sustainable and equitable development.
According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs till now 100 cities and 5151 projects have been identified for investments worth Rs. 205018 crores.

The project has been implemented in 2 formats; one concerning the particular area called “Area Based Development” and secondly the “Pan-city Development”.

Source: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs; GoI

Till now 4161 projects have been completed after investments of Rs.68155 crore. But increasingly the phenomenon of “Urban Flooding” has been observed in these Smart Cities.

According to SEEDS India and CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters) Report “Decoding the Monsoon Floods”, floods are the most damaging and recurrent of all disasters.

In the report they have highlighted the fact that the whole of “Indian Subcontinent” is prone to recurrent flooding which is becoming more severe by the day. For this study they used the monsoon data of the subcontinent from 2000 to 2017.

Source: SEED-CRED Report
Source: SEED-CRED Report

In the years under study it was found that “coastal floods” accounted for only 1% of the flood events, while “riverine floods” accounted for the maximum and “flash floods” accounted for 13%.

Most of the flooding that we have seen in the recent times in smart cities is result of river overflow or flash floods.

According to the report 56% of India’s Smart Cities are in districts with flood events higher than the mean. But still none of the components of Smart City Mission talks about Flood Mitigation Measures.

Looking closely at the city of Bengaluru to understand lacunae in the India’s Smart City Mission:

Bengaluru is one of the 100 cities that have been selected in “Smart City Mission” and according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Report 2021-22, 43 projects have been completed there.
But still the city faced “Urban Floods” due to incessant rains.

This flooding can be attributed mainly to the rampant urbanization in the city. There has been change in the Land Use pattern and built-up area in the city.

Source: Article by Sarthak Verma et al in ResearchGate

From the data above we can see that there has been increase in built up area and land under cultivation, whereas the land under dense vegetation and water bodies has reduced significantly.

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Moreover the drains and urban settlements that are constructed under the Smart City Mission have led to increase in concretized area. Earlier when there was excess rainfall the water was absorbed by the non-concretized areas and wild vegetation and ground water table was recharged.

But with the increase in built up area, more and more area got concretized, which cannot absorb water. Thus, the excess water starts getting accumulated on roads, thus leading to “Urban Floods”.

Another major anthropogenic activity that had played an important role in Urban Flooding is encroachment of lakes. As we all know Bengaluru lies on the peninsular India that is made up of rocks. So water is not perennially available in the rivers. To sort this Bengaluru had a network of lakes and tanks. These lakes and tanks provided water during lean period and stores water during heavy rains.

According to Bangalore Gazetteer 1981, there were approximately 461 tanks for this purpose. Together, this system accounted for 54% of the water resource of city.

There were 159 water bodies spread in an area of 2003ha in 1973, that number declined to 147 (1582ha) in 1992, which further declined to 107 (1083ha) in 2002 and finally there were only 93 water bodies with an area of 918ha in the Greater Bangalore region in 2007 (Ramachandra TV and Uttam Kumar, 2008).

So this system has been disturbed due to rapid urbanization and this disturbance has its repercussions that are manifested in the form of floods and draughts.

Though Smart City Mission Bengaluru has a component related to rejuvenation of lakes but it does not talk about rejuvenation of the whole network of tanks and lakes so that it solves both the problems of water scarcity and flooding. Smart City Mission focuses more on concretization of the available land, which is not a good idea.

So, for these cities to become really smart a new vertical need to be added to the mission and that is “Disaster Preparedness” of these cities.